2011 interviews of 1987 staff of The Juke Joint

The Juke Joint 1987 staff re-canvass (2011)

Investigators tracked down as many of Kevin Gilmore's co-workers at The Juke Joint as could be located and spoke to them about what they remembered about Kevin Gilmore.

The interviews summarized are some of the most typical or relevant to the investigation and are representative of all interviews conducted.


James Mason

Age / Position: 69 / retired, former owner of The Juke Joint
Address: 383 Longest Road, Oxford MS

Comments: Mr. Mason said he is now retired and spends time with his wife traveling. He no longer owns The Juke Joint.

He sold the business to Rhonda Pendergrass in 1988. He was tired of the restaurant business, so when the sales opportunity presented itself he took it.

He and his wife opened up a floral business. It was something he'd always wanted to do, and they made a good success of it.

He said Rhonda told him she inherited a large sum of money from a relative and used it to buy The Juke Joint. He said Rhonda made a few good changes to the place and worked hard to make it a success.

He said during the first year after Kevin's death, he and his employees discussed the case quite often, but no one had any idea who would want to kill him. He heard rumors that Kevin may have gone out to the pot farm to steal pot for his personal use, but he never believed those stories.

He said it was hard to remember back to 1987, but he'd give it a try. The last time he saw Kevin was at work on Thursday the 10th. Mason said Kevin was scheduled for 9:00 PM and was on time as usual. It was a busy night, but nothing unusual happened.

Mason was at home on Sunday when he learned of Kevin's death. He said he told the detectives everything he knew at the time, and he still doesn't have a clue to who killed Kevin.

Adam West

Age / Position: 51 / Sous Chef at Ravine
Address: 1803 Johnson Avenue, Oxford MS

Comments: Mr. West said that he hasn't thought much about Kevin in the past few years, but the discovery of the hidden room brought the memory back. He's currently the sous chef at Ravine, a fine dining restaurant in Oxford.

When Rhonda Pendergrass bought The Juke Joint from Mr. Mason in 1988, she and West didn't see eye to eye on things, so he left. He said Rhonda wasn't as nice as everyone thought. She could be a tyrant when she wanted to be. When she changed the menu, she wanted him to make everything according to her recipes.

When asked if he knew where Rhonda got the money to buy the place, he said her story was that she inherited it from an uncle. He said it was unusual because they had talked about each other's family and she never mentioned having an uncle before. He'd heard rumors she got the money from selling drugs.

He said after Kevin died there was a lot of discussion about who killed him and why, but no one believed that crazy story that he was killed for trying to steal pot. He said that urban legends are always a bunch of crap.

He said he really missed Kevin at the restaurant for a long time, but time heals all. He said he remembered the last time he saw Kevin like it was yesterday.

Kevin came to work that Thursday at 9:00 PM. It was the 10th of December 1987. West said they talked about the Tulsa game coming up on Saturday. It was a busy night, and he and Kevin had one spat over food. Now, that seems so silly.

West said he thought hard over the months after Kevin died, trying to remember anything he may have said that would help find his killer.

West did remember one day when Kevin stormed in to work, "angry as hell" at one of his teammates named Jason. He called the guy a few dirty names and said he wasn't even worth talking about. At the time, West said, he didn't think anything else about it.

He said he has no earthly idea who wanted Kevin dead.

Laura Mason Jones

Age / Position: 41 / Registered Nurse
Address: 394 Garner Street, Oxford MS

Comments: Mrs. Jones said at the beginning of the interview she only had a few minutes before she had to be at work. She also said she is now married to Derek Jones, who in 1987 was a ticket seller at The Juke Joint. Derek is a surgeon and couldn't make the interview because he was out of town at a medical conference.

She said at the time of Kevin Gilmore's death she and Derek were only 17 years old. Her dad owned The Juke Joint, and she worked there after school. She remembered Kevin and had fond memories of him. He was always sweet and she admitted she had a crush on him. She said she never discussed the case with anyone because it made her sad.

She said her dad sold The Juke Joint in 1988 to Rhonda Pendergrass. Jones didn't have a high opinion of Rhonda.

She said Rhonda treated her like a child and flirted with Kevin like a school girl. "She was a married woman, but she flirted with everyone." She said it was rumored that Rhonda had an affair on her husband, and that's why she got divorced.

Jones said that after her father sold the place, she stopped working there.

She couldn't imagine why anyone would have wanted to kill Kevin.

Rhonda Pendergrass

Age / Position: 59 / current owner of The Juke Joint
Address: 396 Ridgewood Manor Drive, Oxford MS

Comments: Ms. Pendergrass said that she was shocked when she read about the discovery of the hidden room. It had been a lot of years since Kevin's death.

She asked, "Could they actually find evidence of Kevin's killer after all these years?"

She said she loved Kevin like a son and was devastated when she heard the news that he was dead.

Pendergrass said she acquired The Juke Joint in 1988 after her dear uncle died. He was ninety years old when he died, and she never even knew she was in his will.

She mentioned the new changes she made to the place. She wanted it to be a classier, more family-oriented place, and said it has provided quite a good living for her.

When asked if she had discussed the case over the years, she said no because it was "too painful." She remembered hearing others tell a lot of stories, but no one had a clue as to who could have done such a thing.

She said she'd never forget the last time she saw Kevin on December 10, 1987. Kevin came into work without his usual smile on his face. She said they chatted for a few minutes, and she asked what was bothering him. He said he needed a job that paid more money because he had borrowed some money and really needed to pay it back.

When she asked if she could help, he said no. He said that it wasn't a big deal, and he would have no problem finding a way to pay it back. He gave her a hug, and she left work.

Pendergrass said she didn't mention it to the detectives in 1987 because she just didn't think of it. She said this was the first time she'd replayed that scene in her mind since the day he told her. She asked if this was important to the case and if this person that Kevin owed money to could possibly have killed him.

She said she had thought of Kevin fondly over the years but couldn't conceive of anyone she knew wanting to kill him.


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